Well, by now you should know that Tanya Tagaq took home the Polaris Prize this year.
She wasn’t who I wanted to win, but that’s only because – to put it mildly – I didn’t get it. I didn’t give myself time to get it.
Her music is the kind that needs to be witnessed. Experienced. Just listening to the tracks at home didn’t appeal to me. It was too feral. Too scary. Too dark. I thought to myself, “I don’t really enjoy listening to someone howl and grunt their way through a song.”
But of course, that’s the point. The album is called Animism after all.
I’ve never been shy to admit I get stuck in lyric driven music far too often, which can sometimes lead to closing myself off to other genres.
And that is why the Polaris Prize is such a great thing. Not because it gives awards to music – as last years winners Godspeed felt the need to point out isn’t that amazing of a thing to do – but because it shines a light on music you might not otherwise take a chance on.
The fact that an aboriginal artist finally took home the prize is a big deal. As many pointed out, with this being the 9th Polaris, it is long overdue. And I’m glad it went to an artist whose music is so visceral, so honest, so unapologetic and in your face about her roots and her culture.
If you watched her stunning performance before she took home the award, you’ll know it went to the right artist. With names of all the missing aboriginal women currently out there scrolling behind her, and a choir backing up her throat singing, you’d be inhuman not to feel something – too many things – watching it. This is music from the gut. It is all emotion. Overwhelming emotion. Try not to tear up.
This is music that skips right past your head (where lyrics live) and goes to the root of how it feels to be alive. There’s no filter. No need to overanalyze as humans so often do. It is raw and angry and passionate. It is sound in its purest form.
Her vocal abilities capture all the sounds of life, from birth to death and everything in between. I’ve never seen anything like it, and that is why it so deservedly won. Being truly original is such a rare thing in music these days.
If you are new to the unique music she makes as I was, start with her cover of the Pixies “Caribou” below or here if the stream stops working. It’ll ease you into the brilliance of what she does, without scaring you away if you’re unfamiliar with the raw nature of throat singing.